Once, not too long ago, I was having a coaching with a gentleman that I’ve known for quite some time. We were conversing about a character whose aria I was working on and discussing the similarities between her personality and mine. I am always interested to hear how others describe me, because I suppose I am interested to know how I am perceived.
“You seem like a person who takes herself and life very seriously,” Said he.
I was struck by that, because it made me realize what an incredibly accurate description of me it actually is, but I’d just never thought of it that way. He probably has read this blog! Anyone who does could only imagine me to be an over-analyzer of epic proportions! But I spent most of the next day thinking about what he had said. I took stock of my thoughts and observed myself throughout the course of a normal day.
The truth is, I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I should do in any situation, about what other people feel and think, what they will feel and think about me and my actions, what the “right” thing is to do, how my behavior will affect others, how my reputation will be affected by what I say and do. I think about what is polite to say and what is appropriate to wear. Lately, a lot of my feedback from teachers and coaches has had something to do with working on “letting go” and “letting myself just sing,” and I’m starting to see a pattern here! Because of this aspect of my personality, very few people have seen the fun, silly, carefree Jessica that is a huge part of who I consider to be the real me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a rather straight shooter, people who I don’t like or don’t connect with usually know, although I am cordial. When I am concerned, my concern is real. When I am complimentary, my sentiment is real. But I am almost always trying to be on my best behavior. I’ve talked about this before on this blog—I try to make myself proud. I know that life is what we make it, and the space that we live in and relationships we have are only as good as we take the time to make them. Having a good life in that sense, does in fact take some serious effort.
Which can be tiring.
So we need places we can be and people we can be with where no trying is necessary.
In trying to find those people and places, I have often had judgement misfires, resulting in showing the wrong sides of myself at the wrong moments to the wrong people. But they were honest mistakes. And now I know. Those are not my people, places, or moments. I learned something. (Oh, and there I go again—taking something seriously that was supposed to help me not take things seriously!)
In finding myself and my voice, I’ve discovered that singing is one of those places. Not the work of rehearsal, per se -- but inhabiting a character, performing for an audience. I can be silly, carefree wild pony Jessica lots because I have arias and roles now in my lyric coloratura-dom that require it! It is almost painful for my spirit, though, that the minute I step off the stage, I know I have to be the other way again, that my actions and attitude are being observed by my colleagues, and that in classical music, taking yourself super-seriously seems to be the norm. There is no room for error, little room for fun, protocol for everything, and we spend inordinate amounts of time making sure the conductor, stage director, and GD are consistently impressed by our professionalism. But it is so much fun to share a part of who you really are, even if for just a few minutes onstage, that it makes up for all the time we have to spend paying attention.